'Sister Wives' Polygamist Denied Second Marriage License In Montana

| by Kathryn Schroeder

The Collier family had their request for a second marriage license denied that would make their polygamous union legal by Montana’s Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office.

Nathan Collier, 46, legally married Victoria Collier in 2000. In 2007, a religious ceremony joined him to his second wife, Christine. Their family has a total of seven children, some from their unions and others from previous relationships.

Nathan was seeking to have two separate marriage licenses so his union with Christine would be considered legal, reports KRTV.

"I have a marriage with my wife Vicki, I seek a marriage with Christine," Nathan said. "That's the difference between group marriage and plural marriage."

The Colliers used the then 5-day-old Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide as a basis for why a polygamist marriage should be accepted, reports Washington Times.

“It’s about marriage equality,” Nathan said. “You can’t have this without polygamy.”

“We’re a plural family,” Nathan added. “I am a polygamist. I have two wives.”

In the refusal letter sent to the Colliers by Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Kevin Gillen, it states: “ ... reliance on the recent United States Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage is misplaced, there is nothing in that ruling that described the arrangement you seek to establish.”

"Throughout the ruling, the majority opinion references marriage between two people,” Gillen added, referencing the Marriage Equality Act. "That ruling did not expand the number of persons involved in a marriage; the ruling only acknowledged fundamental rights of a person who wishes to marry another person.”

The Colliers were not surprised by the second marriage license refusal.

"I don't think the County Attorney fully understands our arrangement now, or the arrangement that we are seeking," Nathan said. "He seemed to confuse plural marriage with group marriage, whereas again, we aren't looking for my wives to be married to each other."

"We kind of anticipated that the answer would be no," Christine said. "It was predictable based on how the laws are written. There's no distinction between polygamy and bigamy in the written law. To us, polygamy is consensual, where bigamy would be non-consensual."

"To have them render a decision where the information is incorrect disturbs me," said Vicki. "This effects [sic] people's lives. It was heartbreaking, and I tried to prepare Christine for that because there's always that small glimmer of hope."

Gillen specifically stated in the letter that bigamy and polygamy are illegal under Montana state law.

"I am not in the business of speculating as to what types of consequences (and new laws) may flow from the recent Supreme Court case," Gillen wrote. "However, until such time that laws change, the law of the State of Montana is that bigamy and polygamy are illegal arrangements and, consequently, the Yellowstone County Clerk of District Court is unable to issue such a marriage license." 

Christine believes the inability to legally marry Nathan places her and her children in a vulnerable position.

"There's not just protections for me, but protections for my children as well," Christine said. "I have two children that are not biologically Nathan's, and this is the only family that they've known. If something were to happen to me, they could easily be taken away from the only family they've ever known, so it protects them as well."

The Collier family is considering filing a lawsuit to challenge the state law that limits marriage to two people.

“We’re not even asking for acceptance,” Nathan said. "We’re just asking for tolerance. Let us live our lives together without fear.” 

Sources: KRTVWashington Times / Photo credit: KRTV